Musicians (again)

Going through these drawings has brought back so many memories, more than I could ever imagine. Before I started this blog I had no idea what a resource I had to evoke instant recall. It has been a pleasurable experience so I really can’t leave it behind yet. It will be a shorter blog than usual because I have spent a lot of the day designing my Christmas card and sending it off to the printers for Black Friday. I did it last year and made good savings on the money I usually pay for cards. It’s been bugging me for a week. The only thing that I realised after it was all approved and paid for was that I had put an e where there should have been a c. My eyesight is poor these days and it was only when I saw it very enlarged that I realised. In the middle east they always leave a small mistake on their woven carpets on purpose…only Allah is perfect so you are tempting fate trying to emulate him. That’s my excuse.

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The year after Ken had been so ill, I decided ‘no boating’ We both needed a holiday so I devised a trip to the West country using hotels that had heated swimming pools both he and I needed relaxation and exercise. The first hotel was a very expensive one on the banks of the Thames at Caversham. It soon became obvious that the swimming wasn’t for him. He couldn’t swim very well and it made his heart pound in an alarming way.  Each day in our various hotels I usually had the pool to myself, great luxury with a robe and big fluffy towels. We had paid so much for the hotels that we couldn’t afford to eat in them, apart from breakfast which was included. At Caversham we sneeked off to the greasy spoon across the road.

The drawing above comes from a hotel that we stayed in in Torquay. It had a pool, very run down but I didn’t mind. The rest of the hotel had seen better days too. There was a small ballroom with a balcony all around it. In the evening we went to hear the band, we were there having a drink when they came in. It was almost like a joke, they were old and worn like the hotel. They shuffled in. We almost left. Then they started to play and they were absolutely terrific, full of life, inventive in their rhythms and improvisations and fun. They got people dancing almost straight away. Not many bands can do this. The music brought them to life and at the end they went back to being shuffling old men again.

nov22lederhosegood.jpgOn another night they had a Bierkeller Band, definitely not my cup of tea, or my pint of beer. I stayed because I knew they would be interesting to draw. The sight of grown men in leder hosen reminds me of Nazi’s and the Hitler youth movement. Here was another cigarette smoking musician, it shows how long ago it was.

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Almost by accident, (more later on in the blog) I joined a Keyboard and Organ Club. It is a very strange little world of it’s own. There are specialist musicians who make their living doing the circuit. They are hired by keyboard clubs as entertainers and travel miles to earn their crust at village halls and clubs. I have never been to one where alcohol has been served. Tea , biscuits and a raffle are more the norm BUT there are some wonderful players well able to utilise the immense range of sampled sounds that these instruments provide. In my drawing, you can see the remarkable jazz player Steve Lowdell, who has had a lifetime of experience in the jazz world. Because some of the audience also play keyboards the musicians often brought  huge mirrors on stands to allow the audience to see their hands, you can see it in the drawing. This is a great opportunity for drawing, very unusual. Nowadays they bring a movie camera and a screen. A lot of musicians look down on music played on keyboards, wrongly I think, it is a special skill of it’s own. This strange world also hosts conventions in holiday camps and hotels, not a world that I want to join.

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I like to use a sepia pen in my drawings but I have huge trouble finding a decent fibre one, if I used pen and ink it would be easy to get the brown colour. I actually would prefer to use a dipping pen(even better a reed or bamboo) pen and ink… I like the flow and the way you can easily get a living line, alas it just isn’t practical.

nov22violingoodone When you draw musicians you realise how important their posture is, on the other hand the body always being in the same position for hours does impose awful strains. You can sometimes tell what instrument a musician plays even when they are without their instrument. A lot of sax players, including Ken have one shoulder higher than the other.

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Peter Donohoe playing at the Bath Mozart Festival, great to hear beautiful music being playing in my old art school haunts, the Assembly  and the Pump Rooms. I would like to have included the setting but there is never enough time.

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Above…in the cathedral.

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Above.      Playing the ‘pans’ in the Kings Hall.

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Kent Youth Wind Orchestra.

Musicians

I’ve been in and around music of all kinds since I was a child. My mother was a good pianist and my father played the violin very well by ear. I often wonder if it was the music that brought them together, it seemed to be the only time that they got on well.  They argued a lot and I used to go and sit on the stairs with my hands over my ears.

The kind of music that they played would probably be called light music. They played music from the shows of the thirties, especially Ivor Novello ‘We’ll gather Lilacs’, and ‘No ,no Nanette’, songs of the day and ballet music. The first present I ever bought for my mother from my own money was the sheet music for The Sugar Plum Fairy. I have always sung and played, not very well but I have inherited a good sense of rhythm, and pitch. I am not afraid of singing anywhere, it comes naturally to me. I can play the keyboard using my knowledge of the chord positions. It’s known as fake music but it doesn’t sound bad and I enjoy it. If I have the melody line and the chord symbol, I can play just about anything. There has never been a time in my life where music hasn’t played some part

I have always drawn musicians…Ha…I thought, for this Post I could gather my musician drawings together, I had absolutely no idea of the hundreds that I have made over the years until I started to find them…there was no way I could get them all gathered together in a couple of hours. These are just a few, not necessarily the best. As with the museum drawings I’ll sprinkle a few more in later posts.

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Hassan Erraji a blind musician playing the Kanun. The instrument makes a beautiful sound. His hands are  so sensitive on the strings. Plucking with one hand and stopping with the other. I’m a big fan of world music.

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I love rhythm of any kind and these are the Taiko drums, The great thing about the Japanese Taiko drums is that they combine music and movement together. I first saw them at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I had gone to do a textiles course at the Edinburgh College of Art. I was staying in a student hostel close by. The rooms were cheap so there were lots of fringe participants staying there too. I used to look out of my window and see my next door room neighbours juggling and doing acrobatics, they were from China. I usually finished my course around 5pm so I was free for the rest of the evening. I spent the time going to all sorts of brilliant and way out performances in church halls, garages, indeed anywhere that provided space. I was already, all those years, ago finding it difficult to walk. When folks realised that I was a bit disabled I was treated like a queen and often ushered to the front seats, or helped in through a different door. I had such a good time but the two things that I remember were both Japanese, the Taiko drummers and dancers and a Butoh ritual dance group. They danced naked but covered in white mud, it was so elemental and beautiful, very sculptural. There are fierce critics of this type of dancing, they say that it looks as though it were being performed by zombies.  I have a drawing somewhere but I can’t find it. I will add it when I do. It was also the first time that I ate sushi.nov21 2violinsThis couldn’t be more different, very European, a Bach recital in a church in Prague. Wonderful to hear soaring music in a Gothic building. We were taken there by our Czech friends. When they heard we were staying in a tent they immediately invited us to stay in their flat in the middle of Prague. Four memorable events, this concert, a visit to the interesting Jewish cemetery, (all the headstones had little stones left on them, it is a tradition,) a performance by the magical Black Theatre, and a walk around all the places associated with Kafka.

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Closer to home, the Charleston Chasers in the Kings Hall, complete with potted palms (not in my drawing) This is such joyous dance-able music, and so redolent of the age. They take great care recreating the exact musical style . It really is a kind of historical record. I loved the huge ridiculous instrument, I think it might be a Sousaphone.

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I heard these three musicians at the Broadstairs Folk Festival. There aren’t many people that like the bagpipes, but I do. I think they were Breton. It is no mean feat to smoke a cigarette and play the banjo at the same time. How did he do it? We often camped there in the official camp on the school field. I did a very memorable song writing course there with Dave Goulder. We used to go to the jamming sessions, in the pubs  I was playing on the accordion and melodeon and Ken on his flute. We used to come for a shower.

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Two bass players, you must be dedicated to carry the bass round with you. You wonder if bass players started on violins, then cellos and finally on the grandaddy of them all, the mighty bass.nov21bassistwoman.jpgI think this is pretty unusual a woman bass player. I remember that she looked extremely elegant and straight backed as she played.nov21harpistThe sound of the harp is so special. The hands are interesting but difficult to draw. I never worked out what the doll was doing on the back of the chair, my guess is that it was her good luck talisman. Looking back at these drawings has brought back so many memories that I am going to have to continue with them. Time to sleep. 2.30am. Yawn!

Confession…I am a museum and gallery junky. There I’ve said it!

I blame my father, he took me to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford when I was quite young. Of course it was the Egyptian mummies that fascinated me, I think that’s true for a lot of children. That was it, I was hooked. Wherever I go I look for a museum or gallery…I know that I will find some kind of treasure there. I have never been disappointed. One museum eluded me and I have never forgiven it, it was a museum for tin sculptures and constructions in Lisbon in 1960. I was really looking forward to it as I had seen pictures, it was closed for one week and it happened to be the week we were there.

Sometimes you come across quirky little ones like the folkloric museum in Zennor. I have often got to know them before they have been ‘polished up’ into interpretation centres. I used to like the railway museum in York when it was in a big shed next to the station. There were hardly any notices, everything was piled in, you had to discover your own visually interesting treasures. The same thing applied to the old Pitt Rivers Museum (as I have mentioned earlier in the blog) All sorts of things were just kept in drawers and you could just root around freely.

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Inside the spinning room in the transplanted weavers house. Swiss Open Air Museum.

This museum is like our Weald Open Air Museum or St Fagans near Cardiff. Historic buildings of all kinds have been saved and rebuilt in parkland. I am very fond of this drawing because of it’s visual complexity regardless of the subject.

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This one also from Switzerland but this time the rooms a re-erected inside the building. I loved the shapes of all the blacksmiths tools and the way they are arranged. It gave me the idea for a new piece of work.nov20mussudelycoral

This was an unexpected find, what a delicate object, I found it in Sudely House, not a place where you would expect to see such a thing. It is the internal skeleton of a sponge called a Venus Flower.nov20rocksIn contrast this hard rock from the Geological Museum. I decided to split it up into four, each one of the would make an interesting piece in it’s own right.nov20mussoulhouse

A clay Soul House. I love the idea of a soul house, the soul can go in there to rest until it is resurrected in it’s next form. I liked the Birmingham Gallery and Museum. They were doing really imaginative work with different ethnic groups in the city. The next week  they were going to take the children from one of their art groups to London, to the  galleries and museums but the mothers asked if they could have another bus and come too. That doesn’t sound like much until you realise that these women hardly come out of their houses. To me that is one of the things that is good about cultural activities, it can bring people together in a non threatening way.nov20musdoll

Someone has lovingly made this little doll, what we don’t know is whether it was made for a child or for ritual purposes. I hope it was for a child. It resonates with me because my father made me a comforter doll out of an old blanket. Essentially it was five rectangles, body, two legs, two arms. The head was made from an old beret. The eyes were black trouser buttons and he had embroidered a mouth and a nose with darning wool. It was rather flat than three dimensional, very primitive, but I didn’t mind. I called it Tweedle and it remained my comfort for years. It was wartime so a lot of toys were home made, how different it is now.

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Two items of dress with such different purposes on the left the dance costume worn for a festival by Bolivian miners and Japanese armour from the Edo period. I have used both of them in subsequent pieces of work. I picked up the idea of separate units fixed together from the armour. An upholsterer friend gave me a big sack of leather off cuts left over from his work. I had no idea what I would use them for but never look a gift horse in the mouth (this is why my house is untidy, I keep things that might be useful one day!) I cut the pieces into rectangles and joined them with brass aeroplane clips gradually building up the shape. I have it hanging in my hall, it’s OK but I envisage more work on it adding punched holes and lacing. The armour has very elaborate lacing.

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Different heads, at the top Mayan, now there’s an interesting culture, and Nigerian. The art of West Africa is so rich.nov20musgas

I found this babies gas mask in the museum and art gallery in Swindon. I was six when the war broke out and I had the Mickey Mouse mask. It was in a square cardboard box with a cord to hand over your shoulder. A surprise I didn’t even know that there was such a good little gallery in Swindon, it had an excellent collection of distinguished paintings. I enjoyed it.

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Car (Austin 7 but not that far off from my old Ford Popular) from a village museum in Wales and below an elegant sculptural piece of railway equipment from the old railway museum in York.

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Of course you realise than I could go on for pages and pages just with my hauls from museums, but I will just include two more because they have similarities. I might spice up further posts with the odd museum drawing here and there!

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Hat with intricate pleating of the starched cotton. Imagine ironing that!

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But this beautiful sculptured organza jacket by Kei Ito, in the Birmingham Art Gallery, was a real work of art, so amazingly clever in it’s construction. I don’t know when a piece of clothing stops being just functional and turns into a work of art…but I’d say this was pretty close.

As you will see from above I also note down the names of the painters and paintings that I have liked. When I look at my drawings again I realise how many wonderful places I have been too and what a creature is man! (and woman!)

 

Meetings.

I think I have been to more than my fair share of meeting in my life. It started with staff meetings in schools but they were OK. The colleges were a different matter, in the many years that I worked in further education we seemed to be fighting for one thing or another. In the fight for survival in the brutal days when colleges were being cut like corn, we fought for academic recognition. We were continually writing course submissions, negotiating with different examining boards, meeting up with course moderators, it was unending.

Now… I have a problem I just can’t resist doodling or designing in meetings. I tried to keep my mind on the subject in hand but once I had made the first mark I was away. The design ones were straightforward enough but the doodles, I never knew where they were coming from. I have hundreds of them.

I can draw reasonably well but that can sometimes become a hindrance because the best drawings often come when your conscious mind is left behind and you are just free flowing. I suppose that your years and years of looking come in useful because you have a headful of images at your disposal.

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I made the shrine, bottom left. I had see the ex votos in cathlolic churches. If people thought they had been cured or saved in any way they often painted primitive pictures of the scene eg been rescued from drowning, being gored by a bull etc. If their sight or their hearing had been cured there would be a wax ear or eye. Little trinkets were often left, or bits of jewellery. I had just had two new hips. In my piece they were represented by large legs, from dolls, sprayed gold, the shrine was made of textiles in red pink and orange, like a little Punch and Judy set up. It had lots of small gold bells. Someone bought it to give to a friend who had just had the same op.

I don’t actually like selling things much, because when I make them they are an expression of me and what I am thinking at that time. They are like my children going out into the world, I just hope they will be looked after and not thrown on a tip if someone gets tired of them.

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At the time that I did this one I had become entranced by the beach huts. I was interested in the fact that such a basic shape could have so many forms. I had photographed them all individually. When the great storm came I also photographed the destruction and the scattering of the personal things that people had left in them There was an uplifting side, the council took the pieces to the car park and many people collected them and rebuilt, a heartening example of peoples resilience. Sadly nowadays you have to have the council approved standard model but people still customize them in imaginative ways.

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I made the curved form with the tower out of clay. I encrusted it with textures. In my head it was derived from my drawings of the derelict tin mines at Chacewater. The thing is… that things that have happened long in the past resurface again. images have to be given time to ‘cook away’ in your inner being. If they are important to you they will emerge in a different form.

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The above drawings were mostly ideas for textiles. I subsequently used quite a few of them. But the there were the ‘out of your head’ variety, nothing to do with design.

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I used to teach the life drawing classes, so the naked form was in my head, I don’t know whether anybody glanced over my shoulder, Drawing hass always been so important to me. There is hardly a day when I don’t draw.

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Sometimes the accidental juxtaposition of the words and image add something to the whole. I often write little things that I am thinking too. See above. Who was Lilian?

November 18 2018. Having BIG trouble with my very ancient PC. If I don’t post it will mean it has finally given up the ghost. It might mean the dreaded Windows 10. I’ll keep going till the LAST POST! Then there will be a gap before normal service is resumed. Fingers crossed.

Friesland. Still up and running (just)

Oh dear, I really should leave Holland but I can’t until I have dealt with Friesland my favourite Province. Friesland is very different to the rest of Holland, they have their own language spoken by 50% of the people and their own culture. It is, or was, a farming and fishing economy. Because a huge amount of the land is below sea level, the farms are built on little man made mounds often surrounded by trees. Farm houses consist of one end for people and the other end for cattle they are very distinctive and I think beautiful in style. The cattle are the famous black and white Frisians. There is also a culture of people who live by waterways using them as their main means of transport.

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On one of our visits we hired a boat to voyage around their lakeland area. The lakes lie on either side of Hollands biggest main canals. To go from one lake to another you often had to mix it with the big boys, the massive sea going ships including sharing locks with them. The locks and swing bridges are an interesting hazard in themselves as they only open at certain times of day. Vessels gather as close as they can but of course you can’t just stop a boat, you either have to tie up to a stanchion, and there are never enough, or keep moving backwards and forwards jockeying for position until the bridge or lock opens. Then the great off before the bridge lowers again or the gates of the lock close. The lock keepers have an interesting way of collecting your fee, they have a pouch on the end of a fishing pole.

I loved the areas where they cultivated and harvested the reeds. I have no idea why but I have always loved sun bleached sear grass and reeds.

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nov16reedbike It must be some deep ancestral memory in my soul. I know I would love the grasslands of Africa (alas beyond my reach now)

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A favourite area was around Giethorn, not the village itself , which is hideously overrun by tourists, but the lesser known little villages in the area.

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Typical Dutch house, the windows, the patterned shutters for just the lower half of the window, the small bricks laid in distinctive patterns.

Sports. A lot of sailing of course especially in Sneek (pronounced Snake). Then two very distinctively Frisian activities. Speed skating and Fierljeppen, pole jumping over water. All Frisians hope that the winter will be so cold that all the canals will freeze over to the safe depth for skating. Then the stage the great long distance skatetrail. The trail covers a continuous track between eleven cities and only a few people manage it. It goes on through the night and is a true test of endurance. If you complete the course you get a special medal, these medals are highly prized, Richard’s father had one. It happens less often now because of global warming. A shame I would love to see Holland when it is covered in snow and ice. Breughel comes to mind.

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The other, even rarer sport is Fierljeppen. Crossing a canal using a pole. Of course the origins are practical; farmers needed to get from one field to another across the dikes and waterways that drain them. There were bridges but that often meant a detour, not so good when you are trying to get home at the end of the day, hence crossing by pole. You see children practising and young village men testing each other at who can cross the wider ditches.

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Hence the sport. In the big competitions the pole is stuck in the water, the athlete sprints, leaps off the bank into the air to catch the pole and climb up it in mid air whilst trying to control the poles forward and lateral movements. He must then make a graceful landing on the other bank. It requires very complete athletes to do this.

FK Fierljeppen

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We were invited by our friends to a nearby village to see their contests. You had to pay for a ticket on the tiers of seats set up on the bank. It went on until it was dark and floodlit. It was very entertaining because you had children over a smaller area of water and no hopers in fancy dress knowing they were going to drop in and superb athletes. The other thing that spices things up are inter village rivalry. There is always plenty of food and drink too. I think I have mentioned in an early part of my blog how much I enjoy coming across unusual events that are part of the culture of an area.

The Netherlands (again)

It was only when I started writing this blog that I realised that I had spent so much time in ‘the naydorlaanz’ as our Dutch friends called their country, they didn’t seem to like us calling it Holland.

Why did we spend so much time there? There were the boats for Ken of course but it wasn’t just that. My feelings about the country all started the second day we were there. We were cycling to the village to buy bread when we passed a field. In this field were about fifty children from about seven to ten, and what were they doing? They were building houses. Dotted about the field were piles of wood, planks and hardboard. They were handling saws, hammers, chisels, the lot, and building these structures, some had two storeys already. It was brilliant I was absolutely enthralled that they had been trusted to be sensible and they were being so creative in the process. It was everything that I admired. Sadly I didn’t have my camera with me.

We met a young family man with whom we soon became friends. Richard Van der Berg, His father was Dutch and his mother English, so he spoke good English (mind you so did everybody else and with good accents) He invited us to stay at his home in Zwartsluis, near Zwolle. The village was a kind of junction between major waterways.There was also a thriving canal barge village there. He was interested in conservation and had bought a tumbled down, but beautiful, old canal toll house and was converting it himself. He was a social worker in charge of some truly difficult young men, nothing was working with them. Then he hit on an idea, he would buy a wreck of a traditional boat, the old ones with barge boards and rebuild it with them. It was paid for by the Social Services. Can you imagine that. It had worked and they had nearly finished it. They had all acquired marketable skills along the way.We went on a voyage with them and they were rightly proud of what they had done.

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……………Richard holding the tiller and the boom.I’ve just noticed that I have printed the photo the wrong way round…look at the writing!

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Richard and his delinquents restored this historic boat from a wreck.

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Richard took us to meet his father and mother who were pensioners. They lived in houses especially built for pensioners by the Zwolle council ; these houses were so thoughtfully planned for old peoples needs. Their pension was much better than ours and they seemed to be better cared for in every way. There were council led clubs and events that they could go to.

Whilst we were there an uncle died and we were invited to the funeral, at first we said no, we didn’t think we had a right to be there. They insisted, so we did go and it was quite an eye opener.The main area of the crematorium was a rather beautiful oval shape and the doors on one side opened out into a custom built cafe. The main room had a huge curved wrap around cinema screen. It was a humanist service and as part of it the screen opened up and showed this life enhancing film of the beauty of the seasons, the night skies with all the stars and the dawn,accompanied by gentle music and natural sounds, it was so fitting. Then everybody went into the cafe where the food was laid on. All these things were adding up to my belief that the Dutch are a very civilised, socially orientated community. All the time I was there and ever since I have been impressed. On Tuesday this week I had an appointment at my surgery. On the paper that they had given me the hand written time looked like 3.10,  I should have been there at 2.10. She said that they could fit me in an hour. I could have gone home but I find the walking from the scooter to the waiting room difficult so I decided to wait. Alas I had left my book at home, there was nothing for it but to read the regional Health Magazine. The first thing I saw said, East Kent to adopt the Dutch system (it did give it a proper name) for training nurses in the community. It said how well the Dutch had developed it and how successful it was. We would be following the Dutch programme. They would be paid whilst they were studying and working.

Several more things happened to reinforce my admiration. In a local village where several more members of their family lived, on a farm, there was going to be a Flower Festival consisting of a parade of floats. There is a huge one in Zundert every year and maybe in other villages in Holland. We were invited to help., The whole family pitch in, and when I say pitch in everyone works through the night. Rather like the Rio Carnival, there is  rivalry between the farms and the clubs taking part. The subjects of the floats are a closely kept secret till they are revealed in the parade. We all went into a huge barn lit by lanterns. There on the back of a big flat bed truck was a massive chicken wire structure, it wasn’t altogether clear exactly what it was at that stage. Down one side there were tables with mounds of dahlias with more in great piles behind. Each table dealt with a different colour. I sat down at the white table, our job was to cut the stems off and put the flower heads on trays. When they were full they were carried to the people who were threading them into the chicken wire structure. People were singing and loads of food and schnappes were being consumed all night long. A real family and friends effort and everyone knew that the same scenario was being enacted in other parts of the village.Why leave it so late why not do it the day before, the answer is that the flowers need to be as fresh as possible. All the flower cutters could go home once all the stems had been dealt with. Something else impressed me the children were making their own little floats on hand carts and prams.

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The parade started around 3pm, to say it was amazing was an understatement. It was so creative and clever. Our carnival, I’m sad to say, much as I love it, is rubbish in comparison. It used to be better in the 80’s I think. I have lots of photographs which I will put on this site  and you can judge for yourself. By the way our float didn’t appear, the lorry had a puncture! All that work wasted.

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All made of flower heads, usually dahlias. Brightly coloured of course.

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Even the police have decorated their sidecar.

But I still had one more positive experience to come many years later. In the Herne Bay paper it said that some Dutch Folk Dancers (a lot of whom had been in the services) had been invited by the ex servicemen’s club in William Street. They were coming to dance in Herne Bay and Canterbury and the surrounding villages. They were appealing for people to put them up whilst they were here. We offered.

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Johann and Elizabet outside the door of my house.

The couple were getting on but a bit younger than us. Johann and Elizabet. They had their own musicians and were good dancers, we had fun. The next year they came to us just for a holiday with their grandson nov18dutchdancers1

My drawings of the group in their national costumes.

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Then they invited us to stay with them in Holland, they lived in a little village called Zwiep, near Lochem. He had just said he was a baker and we imagined a bakers shop like the ones we have. How wrong we were, they owned their own mill, ground their own flour and cooked the bread in traditional wood burning brick ovens. The bread was brought out on wooden paddles. You have never tasted bread, pies and cakes more delicious. There was something else about the place, it was known for it’s witches and around the grounds of the bakery there were wooden witch effigies.

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Their house, left and the mill beyond.

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The Bakers.

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They were so kind and took us all over the place. I have written all this and not even touched on my favourite Dutch Province Friesland, I’m afraid there will have to be another episode. I think it likely that most of the British people think of Holland as being staid and a bit dull, look under the surface and you will see that that is a mistaken view. They have a far greater sense of care in the community which puts us to shame.

Sad and terrifying.

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It was still going to be boating but with a difference. I managed to find two holiday lets in Cornwall with use of a boat. This seemed like a good idea, we wouldn’t have to tow the boat, we would just take our own Seagull outboard motor. A week in each one, this would give us two different rivers to explore. The first cottage was at Mixtow, a couple of miles outside Fowey. It was off the beaten track a bit, but somehow we managed to find it. First snag it was on a 1 in 8 hill , narrow and with no parking places except for the garden of the cottage. The cottage was half way up the hill, rather a disappointment, but on the other hand it was beautiful inside and looked across the river. On the other bank of the river was the china clay reprocessing facility and a derelict tanker, not as bad as it sounds. When we went out in the boat we had previously thought that we could use the car to take the outboard motor down to where the boat was moored. At Mixtow that wasn’t possible, Ken had to carry it, and of course it was worse coming back up the hill. We nearly gave up the idea but he was keen to explore the river down to Lerryn, We managed it and it was beautiful the thick woods coming down to the waters edge. You needed to watch the tide, as when it was going out it left mud flats that you could easily get stuck on, unfortunately it meant we couldn’t land and have tea.

The nicest part of being at Mixtow was that we could go to get our shopping in Fowey using the boat, we landed on the hard next to the Bodinnick Ferry. It was rather special  we felt quite superior.

nov16amixtowhill             Mixtow hill, more steep than it looks, ending at the quay with no parking .

At the end of the week we packed up our things and drove to St Clements, a village a couple of miles outside Truro on the confluence of two rivers. The flat we were staying in was part of a large house, within a hundred yards of the water. Naturally we went to see the river and the boat, it was a stunning area but just acres of mud. There were only very specific times that you could launch to get onto the River Fal, once you were on the river there was plenty of water, but you had to get there. In the event it didn’t happen. The narrow village road came to an end at the waters edge, this time we could bring the outboard motor in the car. It was a beautiful and historic village with good walks to Malpas along the path through the trees. There was a driveway to the  house and I noticed a telephone box at the end of the path. The owners, who lived in the house, were polite but I noticed that they were not particularly friendly It was almost as though they were letting out the flat under sufferance.

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We unpacked and then I cooked our meal. It was about 10.30 when we went to bed. A couple of hours later Ken woke up in huge agony, he was groaning, totally white and unable to move, I gave him Aspirin. I realised it was a heart attack and I had to think what to do. It was carrying that wretched outboard motor up the hill at Mixtow. I was afraid to leave him but I knew I would have to to get help. I had no torch, it was pitch black but I got to the telephone box , it wasn’t working. All the time I was worrying about Ken left on his own, I was internally shivering and shaking but externally quite cool and practical. In the end I had to go and bang on the door of the main house. They took ages to come,  They were annoyed at first when they opened the door but eventually sympathetic and helpful when they heard my explanation. At once they rang for the ambulance. I went back to be with Ken who was in a bad way. I held his hand and reassured him that the ambulance would soon be here. To be there and not to be able to do anything feels dreadful, I felt helpless and could only pray that he would live till they came. It arrived in about twenty minutes. I followed behind it in the car to the Treliske hospital, Truro.I was shaking, they weren’t sure that he would survive, he had already had one heart attack before I knew him. I stayed by him all night except that I rang his three children. Andrew drove through the night and Penny and Susan came by train. By a stroke of luck our holiday flat had an extra room with bunk beds that they could stay in. The hospital gave me a little room where I could sleep. He was in a bad way it was touch and go but he survived.  Once he improved I was able to sleep back at the flat with Penny and Susan. After a few days his children could go home. Andrew went first.         They said that apart from the worry it was a strange experience for them because it was like sharing a bedroom when they were children. I have touching memories of his time in hospital. When he was in intensive care there was a TV in the ward. It was the Grand National (or maybe the Derby, one of those big races) they all insisted on having it on and they all had little bets. All these sick people were shouting ‘Come on’ and there was cheering for the one who won. Then they all went back to being sick again!

Eventually, as he began to recover, he was put in a little ward with six people, five men and one woman, all Cornish. I felt sorry for the hapless woman, they teased her for farting but she could take it and give back as good as she got. They were so irreverent and funny but like you do in hospital, they all bonded and wrote to each other for ages afterwards.. By this time we had compassionate leave from work. It took about four weeks. I couldn’t stay in the flat because it was let the next week. I thought it would be easy to get somewhere, but it wasn’t, everywhere was fully booked. Then I had a brainwave I’d try a caravan site. There was one quite close to the hospital. I phoned and they had a caravan free. Relief. As I drove in through the gate a young woman was driving out and I recognised her immediately as Bryher, one of my old students. What a surprise! She recognised me too. Bryher was a thalidomide baby and only had a stump for an arm, yet she was one of the most wonderful kind natured students that I ever had. I visited her on teaching practice once and by a weird coincidence there was a little girl in her class who also just had a stump. What that little girl learnt from Bryher was priceless. Her mother was a Scillonian from Bryher and had named her daughter after the island. I asked her what she was doing here and she asked me the same. It turned out that her parents owned the site. They wouldn’t hear of me having a caravan, they gave me, rent free, a beautiful little holiday house. Talk about serendipity. These were early days and I was still in emotional turmoil. In the hours when I couldn’t be in hospital, I found huge solace in the no man’s land at Chacewater close by the site. It really is the Wasteland, (though inhabited by mavericks) and it chimed so heavily with my heart that I went out most days photographing and drawing, that’s often what I do in times of trouble.

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These images of the landscape sum up what I was feeling, bleak, afraid, tearful but still capable of planning and action.

 

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We managed to go to Falmouth before we went home to Kent.

Ken eventually recovered and I was able to take him back to the little house and take him on some gentle trips. He wasn’t ready for the long journey back to Kent for a few days after coming out of hospital, he was quite frail. He retired soon after. The college was needing to cut back (it was one of those times) they offered voluntary redundancy money, the offer was only for a short time, I had to make a quick decision, I was fifty and I took the early retirement offer to be with him. Of course it meant that my pension wasn’t so great but that was the last thing on my mind. We had a few more years ahead of us.